Iran’s supreme leader today claimed it was not trying to build nuclear weapons after a damning report by atomic watchdogs said it was actively working on a warhead.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Khamenei said Islam forbids weapons of mass destruction. Iran maintains its nuclear work is only for peaceful purposes like energy generation.
“Repeating absurd words about the building of nuclear weapons in Iran shows that the enemies are resorting to repeating the propaganda out of ultimate failure,” he said.
“We’ve said time and again that our religious principles and beliefs consider such weapons to be a symbol of destruction that is forbidden. Because of this reason, we don’t have any belief in the atomic bomb and don’t pursue it,” he said.
His remarks came the day after the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had either resumed work on nuclear weapons, or had never even stopped despite assurances.
Khamenei, wearing clerical robes and a turban and walking with a cane, spoke after being given a tour of the country’s latest destroyer launched at a Gulf port.
State television, which broadcast the event, said the warship was the country’s first domestically built destroyer and a major technological leap for Iran’s naval industries.
Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, is also the commander in chief of Iran’s armed forces.
Using it as a backdrop of military might, Khamenei declared that America and Israel were trying to sow divisions between Iran and Arab nations.
“The US and the Zionist regime are trying to spread divisions to distract the attention of Islamic nations from the main enemies of the Islamic world, which are the US and Israel,” he said.
Khamenei said the presence of foreign forces in the Persian Gulf “disturbs security” in the region but that Washington will fail to achieve its goals.
US military officials said last month that Washington was deploying upgraded Patriot missiles in Arab nations in the region and more US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf capable of destroying missiles in flight. The system, they said, is intended to counter a potential Iranian missile strike.
The US Navy’s 5th Fleet is also based in Bahrain, across the Gulf from Iran.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Qatar and Saudi Arabia this week to discuss Iran, warning that Tehran could set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East if it chooses to development atomic weapons.
The predominantly Sunni Arab Middle East – and Gulf nations in particular - have been wary of the growing influence of Shiite Iran, especially because of international suspicions that its nuclear program has a military dimension.